About Me

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Whitestone, New York, United States
I just recently finished teaching English in China for the past 2 years. This year I will be studying Chinese at Shenzhen University. I graduated from F.I.T. in 07', my major was Illustration. For now art will be put to the side and my adventures in China will begin :)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Yeah... neglect.... i know...

Hello everyone! Sorry I haven't written an entry in a long time. I would say... oh I was super busy, or... oh I lost track of time with my blog; but that's not true. I've just been lazy that's all, and my head has been full with all the things happening here and thoughts of missing home so it was just hard to sit down and write something. But here I am, and I guess with no real purpose to this entry but to ramble about anything that comes to mind.
Well last I wrote about Hong Kong, so shortly after that was Halloween. That was interesting! Here in China unless you are a student who had a foreign teacher at some time you have no idea what Halloween is. So as I walked down the street in my oh so awesome zombie costume (courtesy of Rachel)... I basically scared most people who looked at me. And I'm sure it didn't help that I was not alone and it was not only a group of weigouren (foreigners) but scary dressed ones at that! We all took the metro to get to the Halloween party and i swear to you we never had so much space in the train car. No one would really stand any closer than 5 feet of us. I still think we should dress like that everyday to have ample metro space! The party was pretty cool too, though it was held in a mall and we were the main attraction for everyone. It was basically like being in a zoo exhibit!

Then after that I went on a small vacation. Students here all participate in military week. Boy do I love military week!!! Because I don't have to teach :) and the week before that I had Thursday and Friday off because of midterms. It was a sweet 10 days off. So i grabbed a bag and Rachel and took a bus to Guilin, to then head to Yangshuo. Now... the bus was something interesting, it was a sleeper bus. Now at first it's strange but I would SO ride one of these at home if we had them. I think I'm gonna write a letter to someone about that....

So we took this crazy bus for 15 hours to Guilin and then a 2 hour bus to Yangshuo. Now if you don't know this place you do, you just don't know it. Ever walk into fast food Chinese places and see a painting of some dude rafting down a river between really tall pretty mountains. Well basically that's where they got the idea from.

So yeah, it's by far one of the most beautiful places EVER!!! If you ever visit China go here, I totally loved it! I only stayed for a few days but it was well worth it. Also I basically went spelunking in a cave, that was fun and a whole other story O.o

Then came Thanksgiving which started me into missing home real bad. I've lived at home my whole life up until now, so yes that should make it easy for me to miss home quickly. But you must understand something... if you know anything about me you know i LOVE food!! So what is my favor tie holiday you ask.... Thanksgiving!!! So not only did I feel that I missed out on some essential food, but also helping my mom peel potatoes the day of, and the yams. And shucking the corn, and waiting and praying the food would be done faster. Then sitting to eat the best meal ever! Going back for seconds... and not for another full plate... just turkey and mash potatoes.... Oh how i love thee!!! And then taking a glorious food coma nap to only wake up and eat more mash potatoes. Yeah... I missed that terribly. Now don't get me wrong, we did have a dinner together here. Most of the teachers in my program got together and each brought something to the dinner. It was nice but it still wasn't what my Thanksgiving is.

Then after Thanksgiving I figured it was all down hill from there. Soon it would be Christmas, another holiday that I've always been home for and then the New Year... which made me miss my friends terribly. But after some thought and alone time I realize I can't have it all. I like it here and I'm having a great time! So being sad is just what it is, all the better for when I go home. I will go back with a new appreciation for everything... especially bathrooms O.o I'll take a pic of that soon so you can see what I mean. But for now all is well and I will keep on trucking and make this the best year ever!

P.S. - It's gonna be the year of the Ox, lucky me :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hong Kong

Yesterday I went to Hong Kong. I went because I wanted to buy a new small digital camera and Hong Kong is the place to go if you know the price and how to bargain. So I went with Shedisha. Getting there is kinda a trip on it's own. Hong Kong is not part of china so you need your passport and a valid visa to get back into china. You literally go through customs and fill out forms. A teller stares at you as if they are going to say "this is not you..." and not let you through. But in the end I made it with no problem. There are these people there with thermometers that run up on you and point it in your face to make sure you don't have AIDS or something! O.o Shedisha told me she got scanned on the way back last time. I was almost hoping they would... I mean come on Shedisha and i should be prime targets for some crazy foreigners disease... but alas not this time.

We walk over the river in a totally enclosed walkway to Hong Kong. At this moment you are in no man's land. You're not in China nor Hong Kong. Rachel suggested we do a dance, but I think I will save that for the next trip. I was on a mission and I had places to go. We arrive on the Hong Kong side just to go through the whole give papers and passport routine again. Which I found kinda silly cause you seriously can't go anywhere once you pass through the first check point. But I guess it's just procedure. So they stamp my passport a few times and now I'm officially in Hong Kong.

Now I understand that this may be really cheap of me, but we need to get rail passes and those damn things cost $39. Oh yeah Hong Kong uses their own version of a dollar for those that don't know. So yeah I thought that was ridiculous. Especially while in Shenzhen I never pay more than 10 kuai to go from one side of the city to the other. Here I just wanna get to the city center area and they wanna rape me with a $39 price tag, and that's just one way. O.o We buy our tickets and head into town. Now sorry Gary if you read this but at first I thought you were named after a train station. But thank God it was Kow Loon Tong and not KaLung Tang, but it did made me laugh for a bit.

We go to meet a new friend of Shedisha's. She went the previous weekend to get her hair done by a wonderful African lady. Shedisha was there so late that the lady made her dinner and let her stay the night. Her name is Mary. When I go back I will definitely take a pic with her, she's really pretty too! She speaks French and has a wicked accent, it's pretty cool. So we meet with her for a bit to use her comp. She promises that next time we come she will cook us some jalaf rice, not sure what it will taste like but Shedisha swears i'll love it. So Mary tells us where the best places to go shopping for cameras are. So we head off to there.

To sum up the whole shopping thing we basically walked into several stores asking for the camera I was interested in, what's the price, and what does it come with. All of them are out of the price range that I was willing to pay which was quite discouraging. Until we stumble into another store and the dude there finally was the first person willing to bargain with me unlike the previous stores. Oh before I forget, nearly everyone speaks some bit of enlgish in Hong Kong which definitely was a welcome break from trying to buy things with my limited mando. He tells me a price much closer to what I wanted to pay so I go check a few more stores and decide to get it from him. I was originally gonna get a Cannon since I like thier cameras and that's what I am used to. I paid for the Cannon and he keeps talking to me as he waits for the other guy to get it. He asks me why am I getting that particular model. The reason I wanted it was because it had the best ISO for the Cannon cameras at 8 megapixels. He then proceeds to hand me another camera telling me that this one is way better. I understand this is his job, so I entertain him by looking at it. It's a Pentax which I know of. He takes pics with the Pentax and the Cannon showing me the difference. The Pentax kinda blows the Cannon out the water. And the ISO is 6400 versus 1600 on the Cannon. So I ask how much and it's almost $1000 more. I tell him thanx, but it's way too much!! He tells me that he'll give me a special price and lowers it to $1800. I still tell him it's too much. I tell him I live in China, i'm not a tourist with American dollars to spend, I have chinese money. He asks why are we here in China and we tell him, we are teachers. His face lights up, he tells me he will give me a really special price because we are teaching his Chinese people English and now drops down to $1600. This is now $300 more than the Cannon. I sit and think for a sec and he has me sold. I buy the pentax. He hands me his card and tells me to send friends to him for their camera needs. I thank him again and I go skipping into the sunset with my spiffy new camera at half the original asking price. So I did take a couple of pics of Hong Kong. I can't figure out at the moment how to move pics in this blog to differnt parts instead of it going to the top. So when I figure that out, I will edit this and stick the pics in. But all in all, it was a good day and I got something better than what I wanted and at a great price too.

Part 2

Hello there my friends. Sorry to take so long to get to part 2 but I was kinda busy this past week. So here we go. We take the 3 hour ride down to Sanya. Now we thought it would be a van since there were 4 of us, but no we get a sedan and I get the middle seat. If this was home then I would have no problem, but the middle seat in a chinese car means a dead to the world butt. My butt was numb within the first 1/2 hour and was just painful after that. Rachel however was nice enough to offer her behind for the middle seat for the last 1/2 hour which was definitely a welcome move!

We get to the hostel and go to check in. To save some money we want to see if we can have all 4 of us in a room. But of course to rip us off, they won't let us do that, so we split into separate rooms, not before Rachel tries to argue and fails. Later however the clerk lady said she talked to her boss and said tomorrow night we can all be in one room. Of course it's not really a problem it's just that they thought we were some silly tourists that didn't know better. So that night we go to a restaurant down the block called Rainbow, which we pretty much have all our meals henceforth. Not just because this is a western restaurant but also because the food is really good and there are many choices. I don't think I ate the same thing twice.

Now we did arrive while a typhoon was passing so it was on and off raining quite a bit. We spent the next afternoon trying to find Lauren a good bathing suit, which turned into a bathing suit that fit and wasn't atrocious. You would think with all the tourists and the large amount of Russian immigrants that they would have western sizes but they don't. I came to the conclusion that they hid the real stuff in the back just to make all the westerners feel God awful fat! So after a lot of searching we finally finish tired and a bit defeated, so we go to Rainbow to figure out what the game plan for tomorrow is. We go to the hostel's lobby and on the wall there are many package deals to do different things in Sanya. We look through them and decide that tomorrow we wanted to try the scuba diving and then go to the hot spring. We pay and plan to get up super early.

We wake up and get ready and head to the lobby. We are met by one of the owners who kinda has an attitude off the bat but we brush it off since that's not too uncommon here when someone thinks they are above you. She takes us a few blocks away to the water and to the scuba center. She leaves us there and we start to suit up. The entire instruction was in chinese but thankfully Rachel is PADI certified. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's an international certification to scuba without having someone attached to your hip trying to tell you what to do. Also she is certified to dive to 30 meters, much farther than a novice is allowed to go. So while they are bringing the new group for instruction, Rachel runs through the basics with us so we aren't clueless. I did think that it was strange that the chinese instructor didn't talk too much about how to use the tank.

We take a little golf cart thingy to another end of the beach and wait. We are half dressed in wet suits and the most mortifying part of this whole ordeal was getting these disgusting (in my opinion) wet shoes on. If you know me you know I HATE FEET!!! so yeah... that was very hard! We wait and wait, while sitting there I look at the water to see where the boats are. I want to gauge how long it takes for each group to go and come back. Only because there are a shit ton of people here and I was just hoping we wouldn't sit there forever. So I'm watching and watching but I see no boats. All I see is a group of people floating in about waist deep water and flapping all over the place and coming back. So when it's our turn we ask the guy by the water what the deal is. Because we paid to scuba dive, not to "wanna be" snorkel in scuba gear and see nothing since there's about 20 people in about 50 square feet of water. He pretty much tells us no this is it. We ask if we can swim out since Rachel is certified, he says no. So peeved.... we leave and go back to the hostel to get our money back cause that was just total BS!

The hostel gives us our money back without too much problem. This leads me to believe that this is not the first time someone has had problems with the scuba place. Cause in China if you want your money back you need to fight tooth and nail for it. If they just hand it to you it means that they know it was bogus to begin with. So slightly annoyed that we wasted the whole day on this, we go to Rainbow to eat and plan to go to the hot spring for the night.

Hmm I'm thinking this calls for Part 3 :)... to be continued...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A long time coming.

Part 1 - because my hand cramps when i type too long... -_-

Well kiddies sorry I have been gone for a while. It was a matter of being busy, tired, lazy, and just not around. But I shall try to make light of what has passed these few weeks. First there was the vacation. Here there is a holiday called National Day (October 1). This holiday is quite amazing because most everyone gets off from work/school for a whole week. So this was awesome, but at first it was kinda bad cause I did not have my passport back yet from the god knows who bureau that gives you your visa. So I didn't want to make any plans since I wasn't sure if I could do anywhere. Some of you may be thinking... just travel in China. It's not that simple. Here in Shenzhen there is a special border. The inner districts are part of what they call the SEZ (special economic zone). In order to get in you need working papers or a Visa. So there was the off chance that if I traveled when i would try to come back into the SEZ I would be asked for papers and not let back in because of the lack of them. So I didn't want to make any plans until I got my Visa. So when did I get the holy grail...the Friday before the vacay. So the rush planning began.

I knew that I wanted to travel with someone who knew a thing or two about picking up and going somewhere. So who better I thought than Rachel and to my excitement Rachel would be traveling with Lauren and Taylor. All 3 are returns to China, world travelers and awesome people, so I was glad to go anywhere they were. So I pretty much left the decision making up to them and agreed to go anywhere they thought would be cool. They started looking into flight info to different countries. Some places were crazy expensive, and no shit since we were doing this the weekend before one of the biggest holiday/breaks here. Then we found a few that weren't too bad but there was a problem... these were all online deals and they all required a credit card. None of us had one or if we did it was a bank card and no one had the amount of cash we needed to pay for it. So then they tried travel agencies. The prices ballooned to a crazy amount leaving us bewildered. We soon talk and agree upon a place called Sanya. It is on Hainan Island just west and south of us. It is nicknamed the Hawaii of China but soon would be known for nothing of the sort.

It is now Monday, I have a small suitcase packed with random stuff since we only decide on Sanya in the local starbucks that day. We buy the tickets that afternoon and head to the airport. The Shenzhen airport isn't bad at all. And my most favorite thing ever is when they say a flight will be leaving at 9:40 it is in the air at that time. No horrible taxi-ing for an hour. But one thing that made me laugh was when the announcements were telling you that the plane was gonna take off soon they literally said... flight blah blah blah is going to be leaving soon please make your way to the gate. Soon O.o! what is that... like 20 minutes....5 minutes.... only in china would they say soon at an airport and not a definite time frame. Ahh that also falls into the maybe category, i will explain that one soon, lol. No really I will but the maybe explanation is it's own post i think.

Ok so back to the story.. damn sidebars... So yeah we take a nice short 45 minute plane ride... sweet huh? And then we arrive to the lovely pit pat of typhoon rain. We have landed right as a small one is passing over, but we don't let that get us down. We stand in the lobby area trying to decide where we are going, since we landed on the other side of the island and Sanya is a 3 hour bus ride away. Lucky for us we briefly talked to a nice lady (American) who actually lives in Hainan, she sees us standing there and asks where we are off to. We tell her we have no clue and she offers to take us into town to find a hotel to stay for the night and in the morning we can make our way to Sanya. We are totally grateful but soon i am conflicted with this act of kindness. Because she is meeting up with her family. A husband and 4 kids. They do have a cool van but who do i get sat down next to... the 10 year old. Now if any of you know me personally you can imagine what I will say next. I thought I was gonna shoot myself in the face..... That little girl talked my ear off like there was no tomorrow -_- I hate children and this was karma getting back at me. We rode in the van for what felt like days... until i saw freedom on the horizon and it was a hotel.

The nice woman walked us into the lobby, did her Chinese thing and got us a room for 400 kuai when it was a business suite that usually costs 1,600 kuai a night. Now those are some china skills. We thank her and settle into the room. It's very nice, 2 beds, western bathroom and a computer with internet. The last was the most important because we used this to look up where we would be staying in Sanya. Both Rachel and Lauren had been here before so when the hostel that Lauren had stayed in showed availability we decided that was where we would stay. So the next day we head out. The hotel offered the night before to order us a private car to take us to Sanya. The car costs the same as the bus which would've made a million stops and therefor taken longer. So we opt for the car and make our way to Sanya.

Part 2 next time... fingers need a break.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Teacher's Day

Teacher's Day is an awesome holiday that we don't have in the states. It was this past Wednesday. All the students applaud you when you enter the class and tell you happy teachers day. There is a bouquet of flowers at the desk for you to admire while you are in that room. Also there is a banquet for the teachers sometime that week. My school held there's this past Friday. There students and teachers perform. There was a great song and dance performance by the senior 3 class (aka 11th graders). It was ridiculously beautiful. Then the music teachers sang. Two of the teachers have operatic voices, it was quite unbelievable.

Then the food is served. As you go to settle down and eat you soon realize that eating is not the main agenda for the night. Soon our contact teacher tells Shedisha and I that it is customary to go from table to table to toast with different people. He said we call this "making friends". At first it was pretty cool. Everyone is so nice that you have fun going to each table, smiling while Wallace (my contact teacher) says something along the lines that we are glad to be here and to meet them. But soon you realize that you will never get back to that wonderful food at your table and that you are totally getting drunk as you take endless sips of red wine. There was also some crazy strong white liquor that I had a few sips of before I thought I would go into a coma if I continued to drink it, so I went back to the wine.

We went to all the tables and finally were able to give the headmaster and Wallace our gifts. But by the end of the night I was nearly drunk which was not my intention. I was glad however that this was taking place in the cafeteria and I live all of 2 minutes from it so when I need to cut out I won't have to go too far. So just before I was about to leave I wanted to toast with the art teacher since he was the first teacher I met when I got here and he invited me to come to his class whenever I like which I thought was super nice. So I go over to him and he's sloshed! In the middle of our toasting he invites us to have beers just outside the school. Now for all my guys (the asians) you all gave me a very false impression of asian people, they drink like fish over here! Totally red in the face after 2 drinks but they just keep on trucking. So of course in my pretty much drunk state I agreed. So we stroll to the local restaurant and proceed to drink and toast to anything and everything under the sun. If I learn any chinese I will know ganbei which is cheers. And if any chinese person knows any english they know bottoms up, which we were constantly being told because apparently they weren't happy when we had any liquid left in our glass after each toast.

After that we made it home no problem and I had no hang over I was just extremely tired. But I wouldn't have it another way it was extremely fun and it helped introduce me to a lot of the teachers here, who i have to say are some of the nicest people I ever met! So it was definitely a very fun night even if I had more to drink than I intended. But like Wallace said that's how we make friends, so when in China :) drink a lot and toast to everything and anything! And one more thing according to our fellow teachers Shedisha and I are beautiful!!! Which i thought was so sweet :) Even students tell me I am beautiful, which is good since I thought I would be just strange and ugly looking to themO.o But this is all for now, I will write about the next day's excursion with Jasmine (one of the Chinese English teachers) in the next post. Until then kiddies :)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The day of cleaning

Well I have been in my apartment for 4 days now and I was only able to finish cleaning today. Amazing how much time it takes to clean a very small apartment O.o But it was not all my fault, I came down with the inevitable..... travelers diarrhea -_- I thought it wasn't that serious but apparently my contact teacher (the person who speaks english here and hooks me up with stuff and solves all my i can't speak chinese problems) thought I should go to the hospital. So yesterday instead of enjoying a lovely dinner with my contact teacher and the head of the foreign affairs of something or other I was whisked away to the hospital.

There I had the lovely task of telling to doctor about my birth control taking.... new concept I guess -_- I also had blood taken for the 3rd time since I've been here, more bruises for me to add to the 2 I already have from the last butchering. Then after figuring I have a fever and will probably die.... no I only kid.... they did however give me 3 different medicines and hooked me up to an IV. As sick as I've been throughout my life I've never had an IV, I don't suggest it especially when you are in a huge hall with chairs lined up in rows with metal hooks hanging from the ceiling waiting for the next victim with a bag to hang. Oh and watching cockroaches scurry across a hospital just feels you with a warm feeling of not knowing if you should scream or possibly barf. Always hoping they don't try to climb on you since you are of course stuck to your chair and bag pole.

But after all of that I do have to say that I did feel a hell of a lot better within that time sitting in the chair. Oh and it took like 2 hours for that bag to finish. Lucky enough the foreign... lets just call him Roddy, since he does have an english name. So Roddy was there and since I had never spoken to him before the 2 hours wasn't all that bad.

So just another experience here in china. But seeing that was the longest side bar of life... back to cleaning the apartment. Well first off the apartment was not that bad at all considering. It just had collected a fair amount of dust and dirt since no one had lived in it for the past 3 months. So I did start to clean when I first got here but the next day I was sick, but today I was feeling quite better so the cleaning commenced. I never thought I would be so OCD about cleaning, but I guess since I never lived by myself I never was hard pressed to really make the effort. But I even made myself a bit proud as to how much I cleaned knowing no one but the other teacher here, my friend Shedisha, would see the apartment.

Oh and for those of you who are wondering I do live on campus. It's very nice to stroll outside my apartment with 10 minutes to get to class and i get there with 5 minutes to spare :) Also I teach seniors. They are an interesting bunch of kids, very quiet but once u talk about something they like it's like a chorus erupts of all sorts of answers that me the deaf person can't possibly hear O.o But all in all I'm having a pretty good time. I only teach 10 classes a week, each class 45 minutes long. And I see them all once a week, so only 1 lesson plan per week, not bad huh :) And I don't have to hold any office hours so I am free between all my classes. And the kids are so well behaved... for now at least. But before this entry becomes a novel I will stop here and write another time with another set of stories for you all, laters :)

China begins

Well this blog has now officially become my china blog. I've been meaning to start it for some time now but i have just been too lazy, or the internet was dial-up O.o or i had no internet. So yeah better late than never. But hopefully i will update at least once a week, possibly every day if i find time to do so. So i hope u guys have fun reading it and if not then oh well, it's more for me than for you so there.